Special Needs Children and the Divorce Process

Divorce is generally a difficult process for everyone involved, especially children. This becomes even more true when a child of divorce has special needs. Children with special needs have specific academic or medical concerns that need to be addressed, oftentimes into adulthood. There are challenges that occur regarding the divorce process when there are special needs children, as they have different requirements for ensuring their quality of life, including specialized academic attention, continued medical appointments or therapy, or simply providing a routine, stable environment in which they can thrive. Because children with special needs have such different and unique requirements to ensure their success and health, judges who make decisions regarding divorces where the parties have a special needs child must take this into account and address all of their needs adequately.

Divorce always takes some compromise between both spouses regarding child custody issues and child support calculations. However, when a divorce includes a special needs child, parents should work together to ensure that the child receives every possible advantage.

Special Needs Children

A child with special needs is defined as a minor who has been determined to require unique or special attention and specific assistance that other children do not need. In many cases, the state may require a declaration of the status for the purpose of providing different types of assistance and benefits for the growth or well-being of the child. A special needs child may have requirements pertaining to physical conditions, learning disabilities, or even a terminal illness. In many cases parents of special-needs children receive unique tax credits or tax deductions to assist with raising a special-needs child. Additionally, some special needs children go to special schools or are involved in specialized programs within public schools that include one-on-one instruction or occupational therapy.

Divorce and the Special Needs Child

Because there are so many different concerns regarding special needs children, the divorce process becomes very different when the couple has a special needs child. In some cases, this means that the child support calculations will have to take into account that there are unique tax credits or tax deductions that will occur for either one or both parents regarding the special needs child. In other cases, because a child has a condition or impairment classified as a special need, they will need either medical, psychiatric, emotional, or academic assistance in ways that other children do not. These items can be classified as extraordinary expenses and be included in the child support calculation. Some children with special needs will need assistance throughout their lifetimes, and specialized medical and academic attention. The family court judge in the divorce must directly address the fact that the divorcing parents have a special needs child in order to ensure that appropriate accommodations and resources are provided for that child not only as a minor, but perhaps throughout his or her lifetime.

Responsibilities of Parents

The most amicable divorces are the ones in which both parties work together to ensure a non-adversarial process with cooperative solutions. This could not be more important than when a child with special needs is concerned. It benefits everyone if parents can make decisions regarding the best interest of their special needs child together, with a sense of cooperation. However, there are circumstances in which parents simply cannot agree regarding what is in the best interest of the child or how to reach those goals in the best way. In those situations, matters will need to be resolved by the courts. Ultimately, a court will look to see what is in the best interest of the child in all areas of their lives, including academics and personal development.

Considerations of Special Needs Children in a Divorce

Some special considerations can include the following examples regarding special needs children and the divorce process. For example, there may be one parent who has always taken the child to all of their medical appointments, sat with the child throughout the school day, or assisted them with all of their physical or emotional therapy. In many cases, one of the fundamental concerns for special needs children is that their routines remain consistent following a divorce for their emotional and physical well-being. This means that one parent may be unable to return to work due to the fact that they will have to continue to be the caregiver for their special needs child. If this is the case, then the other parents may have to relinquish some custody time or have the child support obligations increased.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney

If you are considering a divorce and have a special needs child, contact an experienced family law attorney in Mooresville, North Carolina at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704.370.2828 or online today for your initial consultation.